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WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY

It will be most helpful to the teacher who is considering entering upon service in a new community if he will gather all the information possible about it before accepting appointment. This will be useful to an applicant trying to find out if it is a desirable place in which to work. The author remembers well two college seniors who accepted appointments in rather large town and signed the usual contracts after an interview with the superintendent. Several weeks later they visited the community, decided they didn’t like it, and repudiated their contracts. Such performance quite obviously makes for bad relations on all sides, even though no penalty may be legally provided.After a teacher has accepted appointment in a district, he will be a better teacher if he has gotten all available facts concerning it. Many data may be gathered from the United States census reports, particularly the bulletin Characteristics of the Population. Facts about the industrial nature of the community and of the agriculture in the surrounding territory may also be secured from publications of the Census Bureau and possibly from the local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade. It goes without saying that the new teacher will surely wish to spend quite a few days in the community where he expects to teach before entering upon his duties. A compilation of items upon which data may be secured would. include the following:

  1. Population
  2. Area els
  3. Racial and nationalistic characteristics of the population
  4. Growth of the community
  5. Historical background
  6. Industrial nature
  7. Professions and occupations
  8. Housing
  9. Business status
  10. Size of the school system
  11. Recreational facilities
  12. Social service agencies
  13. Religious organizations
  14. Possible future growth

Attitudes Toward Teachers. Communities differ very greatly in their attitudes toward teachers because of many factors which will be taken up elsewhere in this volume. In some places educators are highly respected, just as are certain members of the older professions of medicine and law. Here they will be welcomed into all of the various community organizations and enterprises and expected to share community. responsibilities. They will be granted the same rights and privileges as are members of the other professions. On the other hand, in not a few places they will not be a very highly respected group and they may be surrounded with restrictions, some of which seem petty and ridiculous. The day of these unreasonable requirements is passing rapidly in most of the country, but no teacher can escape the fact that much is required of him in the way of patterns of behavior and of moral conduct. The teacher, man or woman, is in a unique position of leadership in regard to the youth of the community which is not true for law, medicine, or engineering. This fact can not be ignored or wished away. While this may be more obvious in small communities than in large ones, it is always present to a considerable degree. It should be considered a challenge rather than a handicap that teachers are -nerally expected to be examples of fine living.

Richey comments as follows here; “If you were to call upon a lawyer or a medical doctor for business reasons, either would likely appear before you carefully groomed and would display behavior appropriate to his profession. The same should be expected of teachers”.

It will be well for the new teacher to find out what the local requirements or expectations are and honor them. Simon, in his Preface to Teaching, has suggested that if the teacher respects the standards of the community on small things which are really symbolic, such as not eating in certain restaurants, he will be in a far better position to win a victory on such important matters as the freedom to teach controversial issues and to carry on the full duties of citizenship.Special Requirements and Expectations. In some communities, unfortunately, although it is generally illegal, there may be discrimination against the members of certain religious groups. It is encouraging to note, however, that such practices seem to be decreasing.In some localities membership in some church is expected or at least active participation in the work of some church. Some superintendents think that such a person will be a better teacher and more truly interested in the community where he teaches. Possibly this is a sort of carry-over from the days when it was common practice to require the teacher also to teach a Sunday School class. Today it is rather widely held that this should be a matter for the teacher’s own conscience and that many will probably do better work if they have a respite from formal teaching over the week end.This discussion naturally leads to the problem of where the teacher should live. Although it is true that most school boards prefer to have a teacher live in the community, modern transportation has made commuting much more common than it was a few years ago. Many boards of education set up local residence as a condition of employment, others suggest that the teacher stay in the community on frequent or, at least, occasional week ends, and on rare occasions it will be officially suggested that residence elsewhere will be preferred. Certainly it will be clear to almost anyone that only a teacher who knows the community, who participates in its activities, and who is really a part of it can be sensitive to its problems and its needs and thus be more likely to do an effective teaching job. The teacher who knows the community merely a yas the a location for his school can hardly win the complete respect of those who live there and support it, nor can he attain his full potentialities as a leader and guide of children. Writing on this general problem, the Commission on Teacher Education of American Council on Education says.

Simulation of an unfelt degree of community interest either for protective purposes or in a grimly “Professional” spirit will not do. On the other hand, friendliness and a sense of the value of community relations will lead teachers to take steps appropriate to themselves, and to the situations in which they find themselves, that will speed the day when a genuine community membership has been acquired.

Only as one becomes a part of the community itself can this result be attained.

It is an encouraging sign that in most communities teachers are being sought for membership in local service clubs for men and for women. They are asked to give leadership to many enterprises, such as the Community Chest, and in many national movements of significance, as the Red Cross, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and others.

More and more, too, the school children are being asked to aid in the solicitation of funds for these organizations. No one can deny that, prope administered, this can be excellent practice in good citi nship which is surely worth while. On the other hand, many teachers and administrators are profoundly disturbed at the multiplicity of “Drives” and similar occasions in which the school is asked to participate Quite a few have met the problem y organizing a “Chest” or “United Drive” for the particular school, allocating funds to all groups on some agreed basis and then prohibiting all other appeals, a procedure which has met with general satisfaction. In matters such as these and in other similar situations, such as essay contest, a clear-cut policy of the board of education will be invaluable to the teacher, who should make certain that he is familiar with any policy that exist.

In more than a few communities people look to the teachers for leadership in the Boy and Girl Scout movements and the like and to these requests many respond willingly. In fact, in a good many teacher-preparation programs, training is given in these areas. The same may be said for such work as playground direction and other areas of recreational activity. Some of this, of course, involves much time outside of school hours and on occasion extra compensation is given for it. A question that must be faced is how much outside work may be properly expected of a teacher beyond regular classroom duties before extra pay is justified. A recent case in Pennsylvania, for example, resulted in a court decision that denied the right of a school board to require a high school teacher to collect tickets at a football game on Saturday without additional compensation. Where some what similar cases have reached the courts in other states the school boards have been upheld. The pattern of decisions indicates that boards have the right to require of their teachers adherence to “reasonable” rules and regulations pertaining to duties outside of the classroom. The key to ustifiable requirements seems to be in their reasonability, a matter which will frequently have to be determined by the courts in specific situations.

An illustration of the type of legislation covering this matter is found in the Pennsylvania School Laws where Section 510 reads in part as follows:

The board of school directors in any school district may adopt and enforce such reasonable rules and regulations as it may deem necessary and proper, regarding the management of its school affairs and the conduct and deportment of all superintendent, teachers, and other appointees or employees during the time they are engaged in their duties to the district, as well as the conduct and deportment of all pupils attending the public schools in the district, during such time as they are under the supervision of the board of school directors and teachers, including the time necessarily spend in coming to and returning from school.

PARENT-TEACHER ORGANIZATIONS

One type of non-teaching activity in which most teachers are expected to engage, at least to some extent, is that of the parent-teacher association. From holding office, to serving on committees of various sorts, to talking with parents on regular meeting nights, teachers have a vital part to play in this co operative work of the home ad the school. Such organizations must not be teacher-dominated, but certainly the teacher may be expected to exert some reasonable amount of leadership. Few groups can do more good for the welfare of the children of any community than a well-planned and well-directed parent-teacher association; few can do more harm than one that fails to get a proper perspective of its program and one which is badly led.

A world of caution to the teacher about community. activities may not be amiss at this point. It should be kept in mind that is easier for most people to say “yes” than to say “no” to the things that one may be asked to do. What, then, is a desirable optimum?

Obviously, a teacher’s first obligation is to be a good teacher in the most complete sense of the word. Certainly a new teacher in any community must ‘choose wisely those activities. which will make him a better teacher and which will not take so much time as to make it impossible for him to do a first-class job in his school. He needs time to prepare his work, to counsel with students, and to carry out effectively all the many professional tasks that are a part of good teaching. He needs time for relaxation and recreation too. To the extent that these goals are made too difficult or impossible, he is undertaking too much. It is not out of place to say that a teacher as well as anyone else must “develop the gentle art of saying no.”

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